First of all, let us have a look at the Section 17(1)(a) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which read as ‘(a) to entertain – (i) complaints where the value of goods or services and compensation, if any, claimed exceeds rupees twenty lakhs but does not exceed rupees one crore; and (ii) appeals against the order of any District Forum within the State;’

Now, look at the Section 17(1)(b) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which read as “to call for the records and pass appropriate orders in any consumer dispute which is pending before or has been decided by any District Forum within the State, where it appears to the State Commission that such District Forum has exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it by law or has failed to exercise a jurisdiction so vested or acted in exercise of its jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity”.

WHEREAS there is a specific & clear mention in Section 17(1)(a)(ii) about the obvious jurisdiction of taking up of appeals by the State Consumer Commission, which read as “(ii) appeals against the order of any District Forum within the State”, the inclusion of a few words, like “or has been decided by” in Section 17(1)(b) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has been generating an anomaly that causes to lose vitality of Section 17(1)(b).    The inclusion of words, like “or has been decided by” in Section 17(1)(b) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has been causing confusion to everyone, or one and all.   Such variance, most probably, also provides scope to the concerned authorities of the State Commissions to simply return or reject the appeals/applications received by them under Section 17(1)(b) of the Consumer Protection Act, stating straightforwardly as “your application is not enclosed with any order passed by the District Forum”, ignoring the fact that there is a separate provision under Section 17(1)(a)(ii) of the Act for appeals against the order of any District Forum within the State.

In a routine way, as per Section 17(1)(a)(ii) of the Act, one could file appeal before the State Commission against any Order passed by the District Forum in the State. However, the Section 17(1)(b) of the Consumer Protection Act is ‘a special policy/platform’ and is very particularly conveys that when any District Forum has exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it by law or has failed to exercise a jurisdiction so vested or acted in exercise of its jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity, the State Commission has the jurisdiction to take up such issue or issues pertaining to the Consumer Complaint/Dispute, irrespective of the case status being in any of the following two aspects: –

1. DISPUTE PENDING: any consumer dispute which is pending before any District Forum within the State, AND

2. DISPUTE DECIDED: any consumer dispute which has been decided by any District Forum within the State,

To understand more clearly as to what Section 17(1)(b) of the Consumer Protection Act conveys about the incorporated two aspects, it is needed to split it up & prepare separately  in two full structures [in tune with the original structure of Section 17(1)(b) of the Act]  to have individual structure of each aspect in full form, as follows, to arrive at the exact  messages/mandates provided under Section 17(1)(b):

1. DISPUTE PENDING: to call for the records and pass appropriate orders in any consumer dispute which is pending before any District Forum within the State, where it appears to the State Commission that such District Forum has exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it by law or has failed to exercise a jurisdiction so vested or acted in exercise of its jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity”.

2. DISPUTE DECIDED:to call for the records and pass appropriate orders in any consumer dispute which has been decided by any District Forum within the State, where it appears to the State Commission that such District Forum has exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it by law or has failed to exercise a jurisdiction so vested or acted in exercise of its jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity”.

In the light of the above, it could be presumed that the Section 17(1)(b) of the Consumer Protection Act is ‘a very special policy’ to deal with other inconsistencies.

Author- Syed Mahaboob Peer

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